17th September 2014 Meeting Minutes

Chair: David Huband

Minutes of last meeting Agreed

Chair paid tribute to the life and work of Helen Bamber who died in August. She began her work at the end of the war when she went into Bergen Belsen concentration camp. In 1985 she formed the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, now known as Freedom from Torture. Perico Rodriguez knew her well and worked alongside her describing her as a great humanitarian.

Perico Rodriguez (Speaker)

Perico was imprisoned and repeatedly tortured for three years following the 1976 military coup in Argentina led by General Jorge Videla. He was released in1979 and exiled to the UK. Prior to his release the Diss group of Amnesty adopted him and campaigned on his behalf.
Perico talked about how torture was not carried out by mad men but individuals who were part of a well organised system designed to destroy individuals, their relatives and a particular section of society. Complicit in the systematic abuse were doctors, lawyer, and psychologists in an efficient network as in concentration camps. He stressed that for all to enjoy democratic freedom in a society, a legal system must be promoted. In itself this is not enough but the law must be acted upon. The powerful will never willingly relinquish their power. He said that the work of Amnesty and other organisations was very important in working towards this goal. Perico talked about his personal experience after leaving detention and his contact with the work of the Medical Foundation. He explained that the traumatic psychological and physical effects after torture varied from person to person. He sadly noted that the experience of refugees coming to the UK now is very different from the welcome he was given when he arrived in 1979.

Monthly Action

Torture in Mexico: Out Of Control

Amnesty’s new report on Mexico highlights horrific cases of torture by military and the police force. Impunity for the perpetrators is the norm. There has been a 600% rise in reports of torture and ill treatment between 2003- 2013. Action focuses on Claudia Medina Tamariz who was taken, detained and tortured in August 2012. When released on bail she reported the torture prompting a federal judge to request an investigation. Two years later no investigation has taken place. Action is a letter to the President expressing concern over the persistent use of torture and asking him to acknowledge the scale of the problem and to take steps to strengthen the investigation of allegations of torture. This Action is on the group’s website.

Follow up of Action for Ali Arrass – Morocco

Ali Arass returned to a Spanish territory in Morocco, from Belgium, to care for his elderly father. He graphically described his tortured in a series of line drawings. At first the Moroccan authorities rebuffed the Stop Torture Campaign but later acknowledged there were cases of torture, recognized the Arassas case and that they would take Amnesty’s recommendations into account.

Work for Children

Joanna has emailed Sarah O’Grady, Chair of AIUK board, asking for details of the responses to the recent discussion document about the way forward for AI. We highlighted the lack of activity for children and young people and would like to know if other groups also highlighted this gap in our work. Sarah does not have the information but will find out who does.

Uzbekistan

David F distributed letters for the President reminding him of our request to release Salidzhon Abdurakhmanov unconditionally. A member suggested we might put the case on the website change.org. DF will look into this.
The co-ordinator for this world region has given up through illness. David F has sent her a card with our good wishes.

Shaker Aamer

The MP for Shaker Aamer’s family received a letter from from Clifford Soan, US special envoy for Guantanamo. He offers no reassurances.
Save Shaker AAmer Campaign (SSAC) propose an email storm in the autumn but no specific date has been suggested. If no date is forthcoming by next month then we will do our own.
SSAC hold a weekly vigil outside Parliament. David H asked for people to join that vigil on Wednesday 15 October approx. 1pm – 4pm and to give their names at the meeting or email him on chair@norwichamnesty.org.uk
A NY Times supplement in the Observer Newspaper lists the countries prepared to accept Shaker Aamer but does not mention the UK. David B will write to the NY Times correcting them.
Chair will write to the head of MI6 asking them to confirm there is no collusion between the US and the UK about the situation of Shaker Aamer. He will ask AIUK for approval of the letter and if it is not forthcoming we can write as individuals not as members of Amnesty.
Tobias Ellwood MP (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the FCO) wrote to Simon Wright MP who forwarded the letter to Jim. It outlined recent discussions in the US and UK about health and welfare concerns.

Events

Appleyards Gig (Exchange Street)

25th September 7.30pm

Tom will be talking on Mustard TV about the event to be shown Tues 23rd or Weds 24th evening next week.

Freedom from Torture – Murder Mystery

Friday 3rd October 7.30pm

White Woman Lane Junior School Sprowston NR6 7JA

UNA Cuba

Friday 19th September

Friends Meeting House 1pm

AIUK Skills share for Torture Campaign

4th October

David F will attend

Future speakers

Lyn H will attend a planning meeting on 31 October for International Women’s Day on 3 August 2015. It will be the centenary of the WI.

Next Meeting – Wednesday 15th October at 7.30pm

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